Encouraged by enthusiastic reviews, yesterday we saw the Korean movie Poetry by Lee Chang-Dong. The story is tragic but the movie is really worth seeing.
Mija, a sixty-five year old woman, raises her grandson alone and barely makes ends meet. One day she is told by the father of one of her grandson’s classmates that both boys, along with four others, have been involved in a terrible misdemeanor.
All the parents, or rather fathers – the mothers are conspicuously absent from the plot – want a cover-up and this involves a lot of money.
The grandmother is devastated: she is under shock because of what has happened and she cannot financially contribute to the cover-up. It is also clear that she totally disapproves of her grandson’s wrongdoing but is nevertheless unable to confront him overtly about it. The fact that she has just been diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease obviously makes her extremely anxious about the future.
The title refers to the poerty lessons the grandmother takes up at the beginning of the movie and which give rhythm to the story. These lessons and the reading sessions she attends are her only solace.
In the end, Mija finds a way to redeem her grandson by sacrificing herself in more ways than one.
This movie is terrifying in that it portrays a global post-modern society where youngsters are constantly glued to different screens whenever they are not at school and where securing their future is more important than teaching them values. Even if the plot is set in Korea, it is easy to imagine the same story in any other developed country.
It is a movie I strongly recommend because of the issues it raises and since it is a subtle tour de force.